Happy! Kurisumasu! (Or, my first Christmas in Japan…)

“Happy Christmas time!”  Yes, that’s what the people on the radio are saying between every song today (and most of the songs are Christmas songs!).  Christmas is just another wonderful opportunity to find delightful ‘Engrish’ in Japan, and I love it!

I’ve been studying the developments of Christmas since early November, when I first spotted a huge Christmas tree in the Towers building at Nagoya Station:

Just like everything else in Japan which isn’t originally Japanese, it was a perfect replica of what Christmas should be.  Some of my friends have been surprised to hear that Christmas is even celebrated in Japan.  Well, it is and it isn’t.  Christmas is not a holiday.  I will be at work on Christmas day and, in fact, not only is Christmas day payday, I’ll be able to go to the bank and get my wages.  Christmas day is nothing special here really, so why are the shops and streets filled with Christmas wherever I look?  Why are the streets of Sakae constantly pumping out high-pitched cheesy Christmas tunes as I shop, why does even my regular tea from the convenience store come in Christmas packaging?

I’m not complaining.  In fact, I quite like it in its infinite cheesiness.  It’s very innocent in a way.  It’s Christmas because it’s Christmas, and there’s nothing more to it than that – just like it is for kids.  But it’s also very commercial, of course.  All the shops are stuffed with Christmas goods – gifts, toys, costumes…

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And Santa-san (yes, that’s what they call him here) seems to be popping up in all of the most unlikely places…

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I’m told KFC is THE Christmas meal in Japan, and apparently the queues for KFC on Christmas day are pretty long, so you have to order in advance!  It’s not even turkey!!

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A kid drew this for me whilst he was waiting for class to start the other day!

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There are Christmas trees everywhere too, of course…

Nagoya Port

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Midland Square, seen from the TV Tower

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In Central Park in Sakae, this one flashes and changes colour…

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Curious… I found this one in Osu.

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Even some subway stations have displays.  I find it amazing that they’re not vandalised!

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Japan seems to love illuminations, and I’ve seen quite a few Christmas light displays since November.  The best by far has to be the display at Nagoya Station, which I hear is always amazing.  It was hard to capture the size of it, and just how spectacular it is, but maybe you can get the idea…

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So, why do they celebrate Christmas in Japan?  Is it just because America does it? Possibly. But according to Wiki, the first Christmas in Japan was celebrated in the 1500s, and it did begin as a Christian thing.  As Peter Payne notes in his blog today, in Japan the roles of Christmas and New Year are pretty much the reverse of what we are used to in the West.  Christmas Eve is a big date night, and Christmas day is often about parties with friends, whereas New Year is about families, and is a much more sober affair!  Christmas is just like another ‘matsuri’ (festival) here.

One thing I’ve noticed and liked about the Japanese take on Christmas is well-known Christmas songs being sung in Japanese!  I was in Tokyu Hands one day, merrily singing along in my head to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, when I realised that actually I wasn’t hearing English words at all!  I found a version on You Tube which I just love:

If you want to sing along, check out this link. In Japanese, the title is: Aka hana no tonakai, by the way.  I think that translates as just ‘red nosed reindeer’.

I also really like this one:

Anyway, that about concludes my thoughts on Christmas in Japan, for now.  On the day itself, I will be going to work as usual, after a webcam chat with my mum, of course.  I’ll be taking a lunch box of Christmas shaped pasta, which I found in the foreign food store, for my lunch, and some mince pies (also found in the store), which I’ll share with staff and students.  It’s not a regular week at work, so I don’t have too many classes on Christmas day, but I do have one right at the end of the day from 8.00 – 8.50.  I expect I’ll spend most of the day making materials and stuff, but I’ll try and get some Christmas songs in there somehow too! 😉

Oh yeah…  I had to dress up for the occasion, of course!  This was my costume to promote a special lesson at work, and I think I’ll be wearing it tomorrow during the lesson as the kids make Christmas cards and try to pick up pictures of turkey with chopsticks…

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Merry Christmas everyone!!  メリークリスマス!

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3 thoughts on “Happy! Kurisumasu! (Or, my first Christmas in Japan…)

  1. Hey – is that a Popple I spy in the the Osu Christmas tree? Remember them?

    Very funny videos (not sure what the second song is about though!)

    Hope there are still some lights at Nagoya station when I arrive
    xxx

    Like

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